4 Critical Plans You Need to Make Before You Retire

4 Critical Plans You Need to Make Before You Retire

I retired too early.

I was in good shape financially, thanks to the sale of a successful business in which I was one of four owners. So, from a financial perspective, I didn’t need to work.

But, as I discovered later, I wasn’t ready to retire. I hadn’t prepared myself. A few years after I retired, I found myself drifting, uncertain about my future.

If I had it to do over again, then I would have put these four key plans in place before I retired.

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senior couple looking at laptop planning finances

1. A Solid Financial Plan

Retirement will cause dramatic changes in your finances. You need to understand what those changes will be and then implement a plan to prepare yourself financially. Steve Zangmeister, a Chartered Financial Consultant with Raymond James, suggests putting your plan in place at least five years before you retire.

Start by creating a retirement budget. Examine your current expenses—on a monthly and annual basis—and estimate what they will be when you retire. “You can get fancy with budgeting software, or just look over past checkbook and credit card statements,” says Zangmeister. “Work-related expenses will go away, while others—such as travel and entertainment—may increase.”

A key expense area—and one that can be challenging to estimate—is healthcare costs. If your current healthcare insurance is subsidized by your employer, then your insurance expenses may be significantly different when you retire. Depending on your age, you may be able to take advantage of Medicare, but that operates differently than your current health insurance. Getting professional guidance on your potential healthcare expenses may be warranted.

“Once you have estimated your retirement budget,” Zangmeister continues, “you need to analyze how much you’ll need to save to meet that budget. This is where working with a financial planner can be very helpful.” If you decide to do it independently, Zangmeister suggests using a free retirement calculator called FIREcalc.

Zangmeister advises that once you get within two or three years of your target retirement date, you should begin to change your retirement portfolio allocation to a mix that aligns with your post-retirement needs. That investment mix decision is based on your anticipated longevity, current tax bracket, post-retirement bracket, and income needs.

“There are a lot of variables,” he says. “What’s the market going to do? How long will I live? How long will my spouse live? What if we have unforeseen expenses? That’s why it’s important to maintain a diversified portfolio after you retire. For example, monthly distributions can come from the conservative piece of the portfolio during lousy market months and the stock portion of the portfolio during good months.”

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community book or Bible study club senior friends

2. A Strategic Lifestyle Plan

I didn’t retire from a job. I retired from a career. My third career.

After a relatively short career as a software engineer, I transitioned into a career as a Product Manager for high-tech firms. Then, in my 40s, I became an entrepreneur, helping to start and grow a company that provided intelligent Wi-Fi solutions for mobile computers and medical devices.

I enjoyed each of my careers. You may love yours. Or you may hate it and fantasize about not having to go to work anymore. Regardless of how you feel about it, though, leaving it will leave a void in your life. After all, God designed work to be an integral part of your life.

Your job, or career, may be a part of your identity. When you meet someone, after learning his or her name, what’s the first thing you typically ask? “What do you do for a living?” Or, more simply, “What do you do?”

How will you answer that question when you retire? Not for other people, but for yourself? What do you do?

There are two approaches to planning your post-retirement lifestyle: tactical and strategic.

In a tactical approach, you consider how you will fill your time week to week. There are things that you must do, things that you should do, and things that you want to do. Here are some examples of each:

  • Things that you must do: eat, sleep, pay your bills, maintain your home and automobiles, replace worn-out things
  • Things that you should do: exercise, eat right, get regular wellness checkups, keep your mind sharp, have a daily quiet time, read your Bible more
  • Things that you want to do: lose weight, travel, improve your golf game, read more books, write your memoirs, spend more time with your grandchildren

My experience is that, when you have only a tactical plan, your days and weeks start to run together, and you start to drift. You no longer have the many stresses that came with your job, but you don’t have the goals, motivation, and meaning that you had when you were working.

That’s why you need a strategic plan for your life after retirement. In that plan, you lay out objectives or goals, define your approach for achieving or accomplishing them, and determine metrics for measuring your progress. If it helps, then think of yourself as an entrepreneur embarking on a new venture, and a new adventure.

Want to see more of your friends go deeper in their faith with God? You can start a men’s ministry at your church. Want to help the needy in your community? You can meet with the leadership team at your local Salvation Army. Want to pass on some of the knowledge and experience that you have gained? Maybe you can teach at a local community college or create your own YouTube channel and upload virtual classes that you create.

You can have as many post-retirement “careers” as you want.

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two senior men friends on hike

3. A Spiritual Growth Plan

In his book Fathered by God, John Eldredge makes the case that the masculine journey is meant to unfold in this progression: Boyhood to Cowboy to Warrior to Lover to King to Sage. Being a king—a leader—is a “great and noble” undertaking and the goal of the masculine journey. As a sage, a man steps down from his role as king to share his “wealth of knowledge and experience” with those around him.

Late in their careers, many men rise to positions of power and authority in the professional world. But in their other spheres of influence, such as family and church, they may not become true leaders. And when they retire professionally, men often become spectators rather than kings or sages. “At a time in life when most men feel their time has passed,” writes Eldredge, “this could be the period of their greatest contribution.”

Being a king or a sage is not a matter of age, though. You need maturity. Spiritual maturity. That’s why you need a spiritual growth plan in place before you retire. And, of course, you don’t need to wait for retirement to start executing on that plan. Be sure that your plan includes:

  • Spending regular time with God
  • Reading and studying God’s Word, the Bible, on a consistent basis
  • Getting active in a men’s discipleship group—If you can’t find one, then start one.
  • Regular meetings with a few men—your band of brothers—who will share your spiritual journey with you 

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.Proverbs 27:17

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senior man teaching younger man carpentry mentor in retirement

4. A Plan to Invest in Five People

When you retire, it’s easy to get self-centered. And it’s even easier to justify it.

After all, you worked hard for…how many years? That many? You deserve a long vacation, don’t you? You’ve earned it.

It’s called resting on your laurels. And God’s not a big fan of it.

A few days before he was crucified, Jesus told a rather disturbing story (Matthew 25:14-30) about a rich man who, just before he left on a long trip, entrusted his wealth to three of his servants. The master gave the first servant five talents (about $5 million), the second two talents ($2 million), and the third one talent ($1 million).

When the master returned, the first and second servants announced that they had doubled the investments that had been entrusted to them, and the master rewarded them. The third servant, however, had hidden his talent in the ground. Calling that servant wicked, slothful, and worthless, the master had the servant cast into the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

God may not have given you bags of gold, but He has invested quite a bit in you just the same. Over the course of your life, you have accumulated a great deal of knowledge, a wealth of experiences, and, if you have been following God faithfully, quite a bit of wisdom, too. Keeping that to yourself does not honor God. Investing in others by passing along your knowledge, experience, and wisdom brings God joy.

And it will do the same for you.

Make a list of at least five people who matter to you. Then draw up a plan of how you can invest in their lives from the bounty of blessings that God has given to you. Teach them. Mentor them. Demonstrate servant leadership to them. Set an example for them. Use your “talents” to help them to grow into the men and women whom God designed them to be.

When you finally retire from this life, you’ll get to hear this: “‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”

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Chris Bolinger is the author of three men’s devotionals – 52 Weeks of Strength for MenDaily Strength for Men, and Fuerzas para Cada Día para el Hombre – and the co-host of the Empowered Manhood podcast. He splits his time between northeast Ohio and southwest Florida. Against the advice of medical professionals, he remains a die-hard fan of Cleveland pro sports teams. Find him at mensdevotionals.com

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